The 12-man Guardian Council, largely under the sway of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had already barred all but eight of the 686 people who registered as candidates, including pragmatic ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. That left four hardliners, separated only by small differences on issues such as Iran’s nuclear stand-off with the West, facing a lone independent outsider and two relative moderates who may be able to generate popular support. Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, a close adviser to Khamenei related to him by marriage, had been one of three so-called “Principlist” conservative candidates alongside Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati before announcing on Monday he was dropping out.
While he did not endorse any single candidate, Haddad-Adel urged voters to back his fellow Principlists, hinting that they were the ones also backed by Khamenei.
The Shi’ite clerical leader, the most powerful man in the Islamic Republic, has not publicly endorsed any candidate and insists he has only one vote in the election.
“With my withdrawal I ask the dear people to strictly observe the criteria of the Supreme Leader of the Revolution (Khamenei) when they vote for candidates,” Haddad-Adel said in a statement carried by the semi-official Mehr news agency.